Authors: Grant Workman,Mary Workman
Tags: #Fiction, #Science Fiction, #Space Opera
Copyright © 2010 Grant Workman and Mary Workman
All rights reserved.
eBook ISBN: 978-1-62345-248-3
As authors, we could list the influences contributing to the development of how we tell a story, create a character, or see the world. All of which comes down to one thing; the people that we interact with who unknowingly aid in our story telling.
In our world, we sometimes see through your eyes. In doing so, as we write, hoping we reach, touch, and entertain you. This is dedicated to the Genre, the fans, and to our families.
We are not sure there is a big difference between the Acknowledgements and the Dedication page, but we will try with a simple thank you for your encouragement and support.
Thanks to Don S. Davis and his beautiful wife Ruby Davis. It was our honor to meet you, to get to know you, and I still hear your voice in my head, Don, as some of the characters in our stories. Missing you always. Ruby, what can we say, we love you.
There are so many people to thank and speak on especially Ric and Valerie. Thanks for the hours of bended ear on so many topics even a few story lines. Thanks so much for your time and friendship.
Thanks to Neil J. for his continued support and guidance. To his open minded and experienced voice that makes turning on this computer device a treat.
I recognized the body armor the minute they entered Mick’s bar. These were Federal Agents, Guardian class. Body armor was not a new sight here. The fact that these two wore new, polished gear caught my attention and everyone else’s too. New armor also meant that it was charged, energy shields that would stop weapons fire and help the wearer in hand-to-hand combat. Most of the armor on the planet had long since lost its charge. I knew my old armor was depleted.
I pushed my chair deeper into the shadows to sit and listen. It wasn’t my business, but right now I had no business at all.
The first of the two men moved a step forward. This man appeared younger by his body motion and his larger muscles. They pushed at the edges of the armor. While the second one’s gear hung loosely on him.
“I am Senior Agent MoCco. I am looking for Agent Harold Danbeu. Who in here knows Agent Danbeu?”
“Get out, you Flagger,” yelled someone in the crowd. Anyone sent to Lark who still thought they had rank or position, got called a Flagger. Here there were no officials, no federal government offices, and no retirement for the old. No one had an official position on this tiny little world. Using titles was just a grim reminder to everyone that we were out of the network of planets and stuck here forever. Flaggers needed to learn fast that whatever their old life was, it was over once they were dirt-side on Lark.
“Your cooperation is expected in this matter. You might be on a Correction Planet, but you are still citizens of the Federal Network and you can be punished.” MoCco scanned the crowd expecting trouble or hoping for some.
I did not know what these former agents were here for, and new arrivals with powered body armor could only lead to trouble. I slipped out of my chair and moved further into the shadows.
The second man moved forward. “We can also reward those that help us.”
Now there would be trouble, and I decided to find a door, and not the front one. One step back and I hit a wall; well, more like the wall hit me.
“Ain’t you called Harry?” a monster sized man said to me. “And ain’t Harry just short for Harold?”
“No,” I said softly. “Harry is the other guy, the one over there.” I pointed to a dark corner across the room.
The monster man seized my right shoulder and I was sure, I could have sworn at that point he had crushed it in his grip. He stepped forward, taking me with him. “Hey, this is Harry. Is he the one you looking for? What’s the reward?” The monster man propelled me through the crowd to the first guard. “Is this him?”
“I told you no,” I said between clinched teeth from the pain shooting up my whole arm.
The guard raised a scanner and held it up to my face. With one arm all but useless, and my head locked in the power grip of the armored glove, I was forced to submit to the eye retina scan. A red light flashed in my face and the guard read the screen. “No match.”
“See you dumb ape. Let me go,” I said.
“You’re sure?” the monster man said to the guard.
“Pay attention when I talk to you,” the guard said and struck him sharply in the chest. The monster reeled back, taking me with him as he had not released my shoulder yet. We crashed to the ground and I was free. It took a second to move, but I rolled over and got to my hands and knees. I leaned over close to the monster.
“Are you really going to take that?” I whispered.
He stood up just in time to see the two guards headed for the door. He charged with arms open wide, to grab them both.
I did not wait to see the results, but ran for the back door that opened into the street. I ran a full block before I slowed to a walk. I was not being chased, mind you, but after the two guards beat on the guy for a time he might want to return the favor. Or they might. There was also the fact that I could not breathe, I was out of shape.
Two blocks later, I glanced around and changed directions toward my place. Another block and I altered course away from home and walked one more block before I cut back and walked the rest of the way home. The three flights of stairs normally did not bother me, much, they were a minor reminder that I was out of shape. I lit a cigarette at the top of the stairs, unlocked my door, and entered. The minute I stepped through the door someone grabbed my bruised shoulder. I turned to the right, swung with my left, and hit the energized, armored face shield of an agent. I cried out in pain and nearly collapsed to my knees.
“Hi, Harry,” MoCco from the bar said to me.
“Wrong Harry, remember,” I said, twisting my head to look around at the agent.
He tossed me into the center of my living room floor. Hard.
“I lied,” he informed me.
“Now, Harry, why are you causing my men so much trouble? They asked very nicely in the establishment you hang out in and you didn’t step forward. Why is that?”
“Nelson?” I sat up in the middle of the floor, for the second time today, and I had only one beer. “Oh shit.” I jumped forward toward the door, where my fallen cigarette was starting to burn another hole in my worn-out carpet.
Agent MoCco hit me in the middle of the back, not hard, but with the energized glove it felt like a hit from a baseball bat. “No running, scum bag.”
I lay there on the floor with my aching back and shoulders, watching the cigarette smolder.
“Now that I have your attention, Harry, I have work for you,” Nelson told me.
“What did you and your goons do, Nelson? How did you all get sent here? And how did you keep powered armor?”
“I have work for you, Harry, package retrieval.”
“Okay, we’ll do this your way.” I did not want to argue, I just wanted Nelson gone so I could get to my beers in the fridge. “I’m a con, you can’t hire me.” I forced myself to roll over and sit up. “Besides, you got this gorilla here for anything you need done.”
“MoCco has his uses. He enjoys hurting you, I can see it in his eyes.”
“He has on his armor, helmet included. You can’t see shit, Nelson,” I replied.
MoCco swung at the back of my head, but this time I was ready. I could not fight him with his armor, but I could be a moving target. I rolled away before standing up.
Nelson held up his hand toward MoCco and gave the slightest shake of his head.
“All right, down to business. We are on a tight schedule anyway. We can brief you in flight.”
“In flight? You’re on Lark, a prison planet, there are no flights. No flights on planet anywhere and no flights off planet ever. All of the drop zones are one way. They only bring you here, no outbound traffic. Did you hit your head when they dropped you off?”
“Oh, I understand now, you think we are staying. MoCco, stick him, and let’s get out of here.” Nelson stands and as he does he tosses a small, round container that looks like a soda can over his left shoulder.
As I am watching this action, hearing the can hit the floor, MoCco grabbed my hand and jabbed me with a sharp instrument. There was a wave of nausea, I thought I would pass out, but did not. I did feel weak. My legs do not want to hold me, but MoCco anticipates this and grabs my arm under the shoulder and keeps me on my feet. The other agent moved around my apartment and sat several small devices on the floor.
Nelson moved to the door as the second agent took hold of my other arm, and although it crossed my mind to fight, somehow I was just too tired. Nelson moved into the hall, waiting just outside the door.
My aides guided me through the door and to the stairway door. I looked back at Nelson. “I can walk if you call them off.”
“No, Harry. Hold fast to him, agents, we’ll just be a minute more.”
I watched Nelson extract a small box, a remote, and thumb the single control button. The devices in my apartment ignited and even in the hall I could feel the heat wave from them. The apartment became engulfed even as Nelson stepped out, closed the door behind him, and looked to me.
“Well, Harold Danbeu, you have no place to go now, so running would be a waste of MoCco’s time. He doesn’t like you anyway, so I wouldn’t make him madder.”
“What does he have against me?” I asked shaking my head, trying to clear the effects of the drug. It was not a strong sedative just something to keep me off balance for a brief time.
“I told him not to like you,” Nelson replied. Something in the apartment explodes, nothing big yet, but soon. “Let’s go.” Nelson led us to the stairway and up. We climbed fast with me being dragged three steps for every one I missed. The day was still hot when we hit the roof. Off to one side of the building, a column of smoke was climbing into the sky.
“We should hear the fire alarms by now,” I said to Nelson, my head feeling a little better from the rush up the stairs and the fresh air of the roof.
“I turned them off. Wait, you turned them off, just before you set the place to burn.”
“You bastard, there are hundreds of people living in this building. Sound the alarm.” I tried to pull free of the two agents, tried to swing at Nelson, but they had powered armor and held me firmly.
“We have to watch you, Harry, no time for the alarm,” Nelson replied.
“I won’t run, sound the alarm,” I pleaded.
The agent’s transport popped into existence just at the edge of the building. Landing on a prison planet was a high crime, no exceptions. The pilot hovered the jumper a couple of feet away from the building, then cycled open the wide hatch of the ship. It was not legal, but he had not landed. Nelson jumped first, I think partly to get away from me calling him a lot of unpleasant names. He hit the deck, the ship pitched a little, but the pilot was good and recovered fast, as Nelson moved forward to the cockpit.
The two agents picked me up like I weighed nothing and tossed me. I hit the ship’s deck hard. Two agents waiting for me barely noticed I was there. I lay in a pile, and they left me there. The second agent from my apartment jumped next. The ship pitched just a little which separated him from the decking. MoCco jumped. He hit the deck during the same pitch of the ship, but this time I reacted. In the split second that his armor could not help him by attaching to the deck, I swung my feet in his direction, and from the floor kicked him as hard as I could.
MoCco flew out of the open hatch before his fellow agents could react. The ship’s stabilizers adjusted for the weight change, from the armored man, due to his sudden departure. Someone backhanded me and it hurt, I lay still this time for real and just watched.
MoCco hit the building’s edge and plummeted toward the ground. The impact would hurt, but the armor would properly save his life. His real problem now was that he was a resident of Lark. It was unlikely that Nelson would go back for him and if he was not retrieved now, well, that would be it. The hatch cycled closed and one of the ship’s agents started my direction.
Nelson stepped over me to intercept him. “I told all of you to be sharp, this man is dangerous. MoCco didn’t listen.”
“We got to go get MoCco,” the same agent said.
“No time. He screwed up, now the rest of you, be more careful. Get Harry into a cell before I start tossing you out too. Move!” Nelson ordered, then stepped back from me.
The short agent dragged me to my feet and started moving me aft until Nelson stopped me by grabbing my shirt.
“I’ll give you one, Harry, but if you get stupid with me, I’ll return the favor.” He released my shirt.
“Just like old times, huh, Nelson?”
The guard pushed me forward, but did not speak a word as he tossed me into a cell and locked the door.
This was a small runner, a transport ship designed for quick insertion jobs. It was built to do just what it did with us, break an orbit window, normally to drop off special prisoners, and jump back out to high orbit.
The cell was just aft of the main compartment. My cell was small, so I sat down on the bench seat and looked forward at the rest of the ship.
There were padded accelerator seats in the main compartment. I only got the hard bench seat. The hatch to the cockpit was open, the four-man area which held the two pilots and right now my old friend. In the main compartment, sat the five remaining guards. They still had their helmets set to opaque, so the only thing I saw was my reflection on the shiny opaque face shield, not the man behind it.
“Jumping,” Nelson said over the intercom. To his men that was not important, but to me, I grabbed the edge of the bench in the cell and held on. One minute we were climbing through the blue skies of Lark, and the next, all of the window viewers turned to the black of outer space. The motion of the jump almost tossed me against the ceiling bulkhead, and would have had I not been holding on to the bench frame.
“Nelson, your pilot doesn’t have the gravity plates energized.” I held on as I felt my body drift upward.
“Didn’t I mention, it isn’t functional in this runner, but with magnetic armor boots it won’t matter,” Nelson explained.
“Fine, give me a pair of boots.”
“I didn’t bring a spare set, maybe I should have?” Nelson grinned as I held onto the bench frame. “One good thing, since you’ll have to hold on you won’t be as tempted to mess with anything.”
“Agent Nelson, we have the rendezvous schedule,” the copilot reported to Nelson. “Our time is approximately seven hours.”